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Honduras - Berta Caceres: Who She Is & What She Lived For

It bears repetition, over and over, that Berta was assassinated

by the U.S., Canadian-backed narco-dictatorship in Honduras


March 2nd marks the 8th anniversary of the assassination of Berta Caceres and attempted killing of Gustavo Castro.

Putting the U.S. and Canada on Trial Campaign

This 8th anniversary is particularly poignant as the former president of Honduras – Juan Orlando Hernandez – is on trial in New York City for operating a drug trafficking cartel from within the Honduran government and State.


Rights Action urges folks to follow the reporting of former Rights Action colleague Karen Spring (now with Honduras Solidarity Network) who is attending the trial of “JOH” – as Juan Orlando Hernandez is known. Karen’s reporting on the trial is part of the ‘Putting the U.S. and Canada on Trial Campaign’ that aims to expose, once again, the corruption and impunity of the U.S. and Canada such that our governments could – with no repercussions whatsoever - ‘legitimize’ and prop up a military-backed, drug trafficking regime in Honduras for close to 13 years, calling it a “democratic allie” the entire time, lying about or knowingly turning a blind to the brutality and corruption of the regime.


Berta is a direct victim of the U.S. and Canadian-backed coup in 2009, and close to 13 years of U.S. and Canadian political, economic and military support for military-backed, drug-trafficking, ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in Honduras.

March 2, 2016

In early 2016, Berta had recently moved into her own house in La Esperanza, Honduras, close by where she and her children had lived with her mother, Mama Berta. Late on March 2, 2016, into the morning of March 3, a team of assassins broke into her home and shot her dead.


Gustavo Castro, a Mexican friend and human rights and environmental defender, was staying with her. After shooting Berta, when the killers found him in the guest room, they shot him twice. Gustavo “played dead”, lying in his own blood, as the killers fled into the night.


Eight years later, no justice has been done for the “intellectual authors” of Berta’s assassination – the elite economic and political sectors who decided she needed to die, and financed the death squad.


In 2023, charges were laid against Daniel Atala, a member of the Atala Zablah family, one of the oligarchic families that backed the 2009 military coup, and saw their wealth increase during the 12 years and 7 months of ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in power. To date, there has been no arrest warrant issued.


Securing justice against the intellectual elites is spectacularly difficult in large part because, until January 27, 2022, when JOH was ousted from power, Honduras’ political and economic elites maintained full relations with the governments of the U.S., Canada, Spain and E.U., with the World Bank, IMF and numerous global corporations.


After the 2009 coup, over 1000 Hondurans were killed for political reasons – the assassination of Berta the most widely known case. But for the jailing of eight “material authors” of Berta’s assassination, no justice has been done for any of the political killings and repression (torture, illegal jailings, beatings and maimings) that occurred during this time.


Que companera mas companera

I met Berta in 1998 through my work with Rights Action that, for close to two decades, was a supporter of and partner-in-activism with Berta and COPINH, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras co-founded by Berta and Salvador Zuniga, her former partner. Over the course of these 18 years, Berta became a dear and cherished friend.


Born in 1971, Berta was a mother of four, grandmother, daughter, sister and - to all who knew her, learned from her, got strength, courage and wisdom from her - a companera. She was singled out, targeted and killed because of who she is, what she lived for, and what she worked and fought for, her whole life.

Who Killed Berta?

Since her early teens, Berta followed the life path of her mother and some of her siblings. She lived, worked and struggled against all repression and militarisms, all injustices and inequalities, all human rights violations and discriminations, all Mother Earth destroying activities.


For her vision and life work, Berta was killed by the Honduran elites and those governments and other ‘international actors’ that supported the military-backed, ‘open-for-global-business’ regimes in power since the 2009 military coup.


Berta worked against, and was killed by …

  • Over 500 years of racist, violent, dispossessing European imperialism and colonialism
  • 200 years of the so-called “Monroe declaration” and endless U.S. military interventions, exploitations, corruption and impunity
  • Generations of violent and exploitative governments of Honduras propped up by the U.S.-led “international community” (Canada, global corporations and investors, IMF, World Bank, etc.)
  • Centuries of patriarchy and violence against women and girls
  • Centuries of racism against the Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the Americas
  • The greed of corporations and investors - particularly from powerful, rich nations - who conceive of forests and earth, rivers and water, and the people of Honduras, as exploitable, discardable objects, and who steal, kill and destroy to produce ‘for export’ products and profits
  • The IMF, World Bank, IDB, etc., institutions created and dominated by these same rich, powerful nations


Berta was killed by …

  • The banana monopolies (United Fruit Company, Standard Fruit, Dole Bananas, Chiquita Bananas, etc.) of the last 200 years
  • The producers of African palm (including the World Bank-funded Dinant corporation) and sugarcane ‘for export’ to global consumers of food products and of “green energy” (ethanol and bio-diesel fuels)
  • Maquiladora garment factory exploiters of cheap labor producing clothes for ‘top brands’: Gildan Activewear, Hanesbrand, JCPenney, Saks Fifth Avenue’s The Works, etc.
  • Hydro-electric dam companies (like the Atala Zablah family’s Agua Zarca project being violently forced upon Indigenous Lenca territories that COPINH is defending) profiting from privatized rivers and water sources
  • Tourism enclaves (operated by the Canadian Randy “porn king” Jorgensen, and his ilk) illegally and violently evicting Garifuna peoples from communal, ancestral lands
  • Mining companies (Goldcorp Inc., recently bought out by Newmont Corp., NUCOR, Aura Minerals) ripping the earth for gold and iron, poisoning the waters of Guapinol and the Siria Valley, poisoning the blood of local residents, and evicting entire communities and illegally digging up the dead from the 200-year-old Azacualpa cemetery


Most recently, Berta was killed by …

  • The U.S. and Canadian backed military coup of 2009, that ousted the democratically elected government of president Mel Zelaya, and brought back to power the same elites that for so long have dominated and abused Honduras, who - once back in power – announced that “Honduras is open for global business”, using repression as a tool of societal control, opening Honduras’ borders and government institutions to drug-trafficking, hiring sicarios to target and kill hundreds of people, … people like Berta.


By late 2021, Honduras had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, amongst the highest rates of poverty and destitution in the Americas, amongst the highest rates of repression, femicide, journalist killings, corruption and impunity in the Americas … all this achieved by a “democratic allie” propped up and empowered by the U.S., Canada, etc.


Every year since the coup, tens of thousands of Hondurans (in some years, over 100,000) were forced to flee their homes and countries and try desperately to get refugee status in Mexico or the U.S.


Berta was killed by all these powerful people, institutions and governments because, as anyone who knew her will tell you, as anyone who learned from her, got strength, courage and wisdom from her will tell you, these are the things she lived, organized, marched and struggled against.


What Did She Live, Stand and Struggle For?

For your rights and mine. For the human rights – collective and individual – of all people, in all countries. For Mother Earth herself – the fields and forests, air and water. For all life forms on this most precious and unique planet.


Berta lived, stood and struggled for another world is necessary and possible.


We remain utterly sad and enraged by this crime and loss, for Berta’s children, mother, sisters and brothers, for her family and friends in Honduras, and across the Americas.


Yet, as a part of her family members and loved ones died with Berta, the life example, vision and spirit of Berta lives on in her family members, loved ones and so many more.


What To Do?

Do what Berta would do, as she always did. Live, organize, work and struggle together. Link arms. Reach out and support the so many victims of this global human order. Live, organize, work and struggle against all injustices and inequalities, all discriminations, all Mother Earth destroying activities, and for another world is necessary and possible.


Thank-you Berta

You are loved, missed, forever respected

Grahame Russell


(I met Berta in 1998, as part of our work with Rights Action.

Berta was a dear friend and companera.

Her mother and some siblings remain dear friends)